By Greg Dudek
The Bridgewater State University football team showed it had enough firepower to compete in a shootout against William Paterson University Saturday afternoon at Swenson Field.
The Bridgewater State offense clicked right from the start, as they racked up 458 yards of total offense for a 41-24 win to improve to 1-1.
“A couple things went our way,” said Bridgewater State head coach Chuck Denune. “We jumped in the lead. We were playing hard and playing well. Both teams, there was a lot of effort right from the get go. There was a lot of heart out there. And when you play hard, the ball bounces your way once in awhile.”
Senior quarterback Mike McCarthy led the way for the Bears, as he passed for 188 yards and rushed for 96 yards, tallying 284 yards of total offense, and found the end zone once through the air and twice on the ground.
“I think I tried to do too much last week and as a team we rested on our laurels from a year before,” McCarthy said. “Now, we are creating a new identity and it felt good to get back in rhythm.”
McCarthy’s main weapon on the day was junior wide receiver Matt Green, who caught seven passes for 164 yards and a touchdown.
“[Green] is a slippery cat,” Denune said. “I wouldn’t want to cover him. He is pretty crafty. He is physically skilled, but he understands the game very well too. I will take him versus a defensive back nine out of 10 times.”
Bridgewater State’s offense didn’t have to wait long to take the field at the start of the game, as William Paterson jumped out to an early 7-0 lead just 59 seconds into the game.
On their first possession, the Bears were forced to punt. On the punt, the ball ricocheted off of a William Paterson player, and sophomore A.J. Pascuzzo recovered the ball in the end zone to tie the game, 7-7.
McCarthy and the offense went to work from there, as they scored on their next three drives. A 40 yard pass to Green to the Pioneer eight-yard line, set up a two-yard rushing touchdown by junior running back Blaise Branch, for a 13-7 lead with 7:19 left in the first quarter.
The Bears had some luck thrown in on their next drive. Trying to attempt a long field goal, senior
Dillon Huber-Parker lost control of the snap, but picked up the ball, dodged a Pioneer defender, and completed a 30 yard pass to senior tight end Nick Jablonski. What could have been a fatal miscue turned into a touchdown three plays later on a one yard run by McCarthy for a 20-7 lead with 14:56 remaining in the second quarter.
“The play is designed that if something does go wrong, we have another opportunity to get the first down,” Huber-Parker said. “I saw Jablonski with a shorter guy on him, so I just threw it up and asked him to go get it.”
Bridgewater State kept on scoring, as on their next drive, McCarthy hit Green for a 49 yard touchdown pass, to extend the lead to 27-7 with 7:57 left in the half.
William Paterson climbed back into it before halftime though, as they capitalized on two Bridgewater State turnovers.
After a touchdown by the Pioneers, they recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and scored another touchdown, narrowing the deficit to 27-21 with 3:43 left in the half.
McCarthy had the Bears driving right before the half, but a McCarthy fumble gave the ball back to William Paterson, and they converted a 17-yard field goal to trim the lead, 27-24, going into halftime.
“We told them before the game that this was going to be a four quarter game,” Denune said. “William Paterson is too talented, they can put up points in a heartbeat. I was so proud of our defense the way they came out and played in the second half and the third down stops that they made. When you look at their third down percentage in the first half versus the second half, that was the difference.”
The Bears responded with a nine play, 81-yard drive to start the second half, and Branch capped it off with a six yard touchdown run, his second of the game, for a 34-24 lead.
Bridgewater State’s defense adjusted to the Pioneer offense in the second half and kept them out of the end zone.
McCarthy sealed the win for the Bears with his second rushing touchdown of the game with 3:18 left in the fourth quarter.
The offensive explosion was key in helping the Bears bounce back from their season opening loss to Salve Regina University, 36-7. And with conference play set to begin, the Bears will need similar offensive production to fulfill this season’s expectations.
“I’m really proud of these guys and how they responded,” Denune said. “I was really disappointed in the way we played and handled ourselves last week. They came out with a lot more heart and determination, and played with a lot more passion.
“We are not there yet. We made a lot of mistakes, physical and mental. We have to clean that up. We start conference play next week, so we have to be running on all cylinders. But it is a lot better to go in with momentum obviously, then it is backing into conference play.”
Bridgewater State will host conference opponent Worcester State University on Friday night at Swenson Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Greg Dudek is The Comment’s Editor-In-Chief. Follow him on Twitter @gdudek10 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.